KDI's Vera Bukachi, Rosie Jewell, and Joe Mulligan at the 10th Session of the World Urban Forum

Hello! We’re catching our breath after a whirlwind trip to the 10th Session of the World Urban Forum, held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. WUF was established in 2001 by the UN to address one of the most pressing issues facing us: the rapid growth of cities, and their impact on communities, economies, and the climate. Development professionals from around the world meet every two years to exchange knowledge, best practices, and new ideas for sustainable urbanization.

In a jam-packed three days, KDI...
We were so excited to make new friends and connect our work with some of the groundbreaking debates happening in development today. Here's a lowdown on some of the things we learned during our trip - plus a brief update on the Adopt-A-Lot program in LA.

Until next time!

Panelists from left to right: Raisa Banfield (City of Panama), Elin Andersdotter Fabre (Global Utmaning), Vera Bukachi (KDI), Diego Fernandez (City of Buenos Aires), and Maitreyi Das (World Bank)

“The environment is disabled, not people.”

This remark came from Ricardo Wagner of Microsoft Canada during a panel discussion on accessibility – and it’s a shift in thinking that we agree is sorely needed. At one event, we learned that 1 in 3 Kenyans have reduced mobility, while globally, nearly 1 in 2 people over 60 have a disability. These folks rely on public spaces and services to move around, connect with others, and stay healthy and happy – but they're often failed by simple design flaws, like a lack of step-free access or audio information on buses.

Able-bodied w
omen, girls, and sexual and gender minorities face similar barriers, which we delved into a
t our own launch event for the "Handbook for Gender-Inclusive Urban Planning and Design". Developed with the World Bank, the Handbook explores gendered challenges in cities - from poorly-lit, inaccessible public spaces to sexist land laws - and provides clear methods and tools to address them through participatory planning and design. 

Joe, Rosie, and Vera prepping for the launch event with Horacio Terraza from the World Bank Group

Horacio Terraza, co-author and Lead Urban Specialist at the World Bank, presented the Handbook before moderating a panel with KDI’s Vera Bukachi; Elin Fabre, lead of the Urban Girls Movement; Raisa Banfield, former Vice-Mayor of Panama City; Diego Fernandez from the City of Buenos Aires; and Maitreyi Das, Global Manager of the World Bank's Urban Practice.

Maitreyi underlined that we need to think beyond "women" or "disabled people" as separate groups: "Cities are microcosms of the social structure and all its exclusions. A transgender person with a disability living in an informal settlement faces acute, specific disadvantages." 

As we chatted with audience members afterward, the takeaway was clear. Improving our "disabled" urban environments and building truly inclusive cities means committing to an inclusive process - one that includes people of all ages, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and incomes.

Download the Handbook here to find out more!

Robyn Monro-Miller from the International Play Association explains why play is essential for development.

As cities grow and the climate crisis takes hold, the relationship between preserving the natural environment and protecting our children grows ever stronger – and at WUF10, we realized that play is the key connection.

Panel discussions on green infrastructure challenged the idea that expanding cities have to be places of concrete, brick, and stone - with projects like the Great Green Wall and Arbol IOT showing how nature can be "mainstreamed" in cities. Meanwhile, Robyn Monro-Miller from the International Play Association pointed out that play is central to human nature: "All animals need play for healthy development. We keep siloing it off, but it’s as essential to a child as nutrition." She explained that it's not in perfectly-manicured parks, but in unkempt, overgrown spaces - where children can interact with nature - that play tends to thrive.

Sara Candiracci from Arup International Development summed up the link perfectly:

"Children need nature, and nature needs children”. 

Nature enables healthy, playful child development; and children who play in nature will grow up to love and defend it. As we adapt to a warming, urbanizing world, cities will need to prioritize both.

Panelists celebrate after "Innovating Pathways for Safe and Sustainable Futures" hosted by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

"When the community is organized and visible, we can move from relief to development." 

These were the words of Sheela Patel, founder and Chair of Slum Dwellers International (SDI). She explained that the biggest barrier to sustainable development is "the fact that 1 billion people are undocumented and living in informal, "off grid" neighborhoods, invisible until a crisis happens."

The conversation around the importance of community visibility and voice continued at the 
Global Challenges Research Fund event, where KDI's Vera Bukachi and other panelists called for the creation of new data, policy, and innovative technologies in partnership with the most vulnerable community members.

On our final day, we celebrated the launch of “Breaking Cycles of Risk Accumulation in African Cities” by UN-Habitat and the Urban African Risk Knowledge consortium, to which KDI contributed a chapter.* During the presentation, UN-Habitat's Mathias Spaliviero emphasized the value of community-level knowledge in identifying sustainable solutions, while our Associate Director, Joe, challenged academics to bring local voices into research as early as possible.

It's fantastic to see more organizations than ever are committed to partnering with communities - cities cannot be sustainable or resilient without everyone's voice being heard and counted.

*We'd be remiss without shouting out our Community Coordinator Pascal Kipkemboi, whose photo made it onto the front cover!

The lot comes alive with music and dance on a sunny evening in North Hills

On February 7th, together with project partner Inclusive Action and local organization Pacoima Beautiful, we finally put down our tools and celebrated the opening of the first vacant lot to be transformed under the Adopt-A-Lot pilot program!

A bustling and picturesque public space featuring a community garden, stage, play area, benches, and tables, the entire lot was co-designed with residents of North Hills.

Over the next few weeks we will work with Amada – who you heard from in the January newsletter - and the rest of the team at Brillante Watts to design the second lot in the pilot.

Congratulations and well done to everyone involved!

Thanks for reading!
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